The Chrysanthemums

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Marissa Cooper
English 103
Thomas Birmingham

The Chrysanthemums
In the short story The Chrysanthemums, the author weaves a tale about one woman’s struggle with her confined life in a male dominated society. The story takes place in the Salinas Valley and focuses on the main character Elisa. In the short story The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck, the author employs literary devices to depict the theme of frustration and limitation. Steinbeck uses the weather as well as the setting to showcase Elisa restricted options as a woman in her society. From the exposition of the short story it becomes evident that the protagonist Elisa Allen is living in an isolated world. The author employs nature as tool to depict Elisa isolated existence. “The high grey-flannel fog of winter closed off the Salinas Valley from the sky and from all the rest of the world. On every side it sat like a lid on the mountains and made of the great valley a closed pot.” The fog is used as metaphor to convey the effect of isolation from the rest of the world. Steinbeck uses the words “closed pot”, to emphasize the fact that not only is the Salinas Valley secluded from the rest of the world, but it creates a claustrophobic environment that helps the reader understand Elisa’s motivation toward a more fulfilling life. The fog being aptly characterized as a “gray-flannel,” that has settled over the valley as if it were a lid on a pot, indicates Elisa own enclosed existence. Like the fence that keeps animals from her garden, the fog is symbolically keeping her from reaching her full potential in the outside world. She feels emotionally isolated as well, while her husband Henry clearly loves her, he has no understanding of Elisa’s emotional needs as a woman. Elisa doesn’t realize her need to reach out and connect with another human being, until she comes across the tinker. She has an underlying desire to grasp and experience something of the life that she has been deprived of by her...
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